The Leftovers Recap: Is There a Plan?

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The Leftovers
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For a show that takes place after a suspiciously Rapture-like occurrence, The Leftovers has dealt more with the good or evil that people do because of their beliefs than it has the beliefs themselves. This season, for the first time, we’re starting to deal with the larger questions: Was there a celestial Hand at work in the Departure? Is there a Plan?

Suddenly everybody is talking about who believes and who doesn’t, and what shape that belief takes. Michael believes in God, but he doesn’t think Jill does. Matt believes in Miracle, and so does Erika, but John most assuredly doesn’t. The GR believe that the world ended, and Nora pretty much believes the same thing, telling Jill that the flood happened and the Ark left fully loaded. Kevin doesn’t know what he believes in, but he does finally cop to believing in Patti, who in return cites Divine Intervention as the only reason he isn’t dead at the bottom of the swimming hole.

This is all very interesting, but I admit to a small glimmer of worry. Remember how Lost was more fun before it started trying to explain all the mysteries? This show really needs to walk a careful balance between explaining and explaining too much. So far, it’s doing pretty well. Let’s hope it keeps on keeping on.

Poor Kevin. It’s still early in the season — this is only Kevin’s second episode! — but the cards are already stacking up pretty high against him. If you were wondering whether Kevin’s presence at the scene of the girls’ disappearance was going to prove problematic, you got it in one. His cell phone is missing, and he left a large, muddy palm print on the window of the girls’ car; also, nobody knows him, and nobody has any reason to trust him. He doesn’t even know the address of his own house yet, which doesn’t help when a local ranger interrogates him. It’s almost as if someone were deliberately trying to set him up. And given Ghost Patti’s constant attendance on him, sleeping and waking, there’s a good chance that somebody is. I’m not sure it’s her, though. Loath as I am to say anything positive about Creepy Patti, she does help Kevin find his missing phone; there seems to be a slim chance that she’s less malevolent in the afterlife than she was alive. Of course, if she’s working for that larger force I mentioned earlier, that force’s plans may have absolutely nothing to do with whether Kevin Garvey ends up happy or not, so hopefully he’ll keep his eyes open.

He should probably also keep his eyes open when it comes to John Murphy, but I think he knows that. Because there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for John to bring Kevin along with him when he goes after Isaac. Did John just grab the first person he found to undertake a vigilante mission with him? That seems foolish. Did he grab the first Miracle outsider he found? Slightly smarter, maybe, but still weird. Or did he have plans for Kevin? If things hadn’t gone down the way they had, would Kevin have been left holding the bloody baseball bat? I think John Murphy is great, and Kevin Carroll does tightly controlled rage like no other, but I do not trust him for a hot second. I feel about him the way I felt about Matt Jamison in the later episodes last season: I kind of get him, I kind of like him, but he doesn’t strike me as a force for good.

The big question of Kevin’s arc here, though, is the one Patti puts to him at the end of the episode: Does he want to kill himself? We seem to be back at the end of season one here, with Our Chief (the one we see) and Other Chief (the one that takes over when Kevin is asleep). Our Chief insists, teary-eyed, that he loves his family, and he lets himself be handcuffed to Nora with nary a look askance. Even before the Departure, though, Kevin was never entirely comfortable within the ties that bind. It’s understandable that he and Nora think those handcuffs will solve their problems. We’ll have to agree to disagree; frankly, those handcuffs worry me.

Carrie Coon gets to have some fun this episode. So far, Nora has been unshakable in her determination to build a new life, and it’s going to be a good life, damn it, and she is going to freaking enjoy it. When Nora wakes up, the earth shaking and Kevin gone, all of that falls away. She grabs the baby, checks on Jill, puts the baby in a box for safekeeping and looks outside for Kevin’s truck. When Erika tells Nora that Evie has disappeared, that word — “gone”— flips a switch in Nora’s head. She barely makes it back inside before she literally collapses.

When she wakes up, she frantically tries to check on the rest of the world, going so far as to call a not-particularly-helpful 911 operator. “Did it happen again?” she says, near hysterics. “Are the people gone?” (Hey, Nora? I get it, but your baby has been in a box for hours now, so, I don’t know, maybe check on her before you worry about the rest of the world.) When Kevin stumbles through the door, Nora drops the phone and clings to him. Then, finally, finally, she checks on the baby, thus allowing every parent in the viewing audience to breathe again, because the baby is fine.

Nora is not. Nora is a mess. Her happy ending is threatened, both by Evie’s disappearance and Kevin’s missing cell phone. She can’t do anything about the former, but she can sure as hell do something about the latter. This is what I mean when I said that Carrie Coon got to have some fun: She goes from episode two’s pretty-skirt-wearing, oh-how-nice-a-pie Nora to this week’s steely-eyed, do-not-fuck-with-me-as-I-circumvent-the-law Nora. When she’s done all she can to let Kevin know he’d better find that phone, she buys herself a bottle of whiskey, shares it with the decidedly underage Jill, and heads across town to Matt’s church to berate him for dragging them to Miracle, and to demand that he tell them if Miracle is real.

It’s hard to know how Nora feels when he tells her the story about Mary waking up. She looks almost as sad as Christopher Eccleston (and he’s really good at sad faces), and when Kevin finally makes it home with his phone, she almost seems normal again. Then the handcuffs come out, though, and regardless of what Kevin may want, there’s no saying no to her in that moment. Maybe these two really do love each other, or maybe, as Patti claims, they’re two irreparably damaged people, clinging to each other in a desperate attempt to make themselves whole. Call me a romantic: I hope it’s the former.

This episode’s award for Character Most in Need of a Hug — magic or otherwise — goes to Jill Garvey. Last time we saw her, she was patching up her father’s boo-boos and dispensing advice like an underage sitcom mom; this week, she wakes up in the middle of an earthquake and then spends the rest of the episode alone with the baby. It’s her first night in Miracle, and except for the brief moment when Nora blows through the house to give her whiskey, she is completely in the dark, in a strange house that’s literally falling down around her ears.

So, in her new role as unofficial grown-up, she seeks out Michael, who’s similarly abandoned but for different reasons — he’s not looking for his sister because he thinks she’s no longer there to be found — and together they fix the damn house, or at least the sink. She and Michael exchanged a few significant glances at the birthday party, but I think the way she can’t stay away from him tonight has less to do with hormones and more to do with the fact that she’s alone, and baffled. She can’t stay away from him because he’s the only other person as alone as she is, and in the end, she gets her hug. It’s not magic, but it’s more than anybody else has done for her recently.

  • According to Erika, John’s position as arbiter of all things miraculous is a self-appointed one. This makes me very curious about John’s initial crime. The firemen follow him so willingly; whomever he attempted to kill, his crime didn’t exactly leave him a pariah.
  • The guy in the trailer is the rather poetically named Virgil. According to the Dante’s Inferno Wiki — yep — Virgil represents “the pinnacle of human reason as well as the limitations of human reason,” and he’s our guide through both Hell and Purgatory. So I imagine we’ll be seeing him again, once or twice.